If you’re visiting Merida, Mexico soon and want to simplify the planning process, you’ve come to the right place! After visiting Merida three times in the last few years (we have friends who live here) – we know a thing or two about this stunning colonial city.
Merida, Mexico is becoming a popular destination to visit thanks to its safety and the ridiculous amount of fun things to do here.
As the capital of the Yucatan and home to 2 million people, Merida has a “small town feel” while having big city amenities. Add in its food, architecture, history, and culture and it’s easy to see why so many people are flocking to this city.
This Merida travel guide shares everything you need to know about visiting Merida Mexico. From where to stay, the best time to visit, safety, and the best things to do. We’ve got you covered!
Table of Contents
- Important things to know about visiting Merida, Mexico
- Is Merida safe to visit?
- The best time to visit Merida
- Traveling to Merida, Mexico
- Where to stay in Merida
- Getting around Merida
- What to bring on a trip to Merida, Mexico
- How much does it cost to travel to Merida
- Things to do in Merida
Important things to know about visiting Merida, Mexico
The national language of Mexico is Spanish. It’s helpful to know some Spanish when visiting particularly for things like ordering, getting directions, or greeting people. Almost everyone in the tourism industry (restaurant servers, hotel clerks, etc) will know English so don’t fret if you’re not up to par with your Spanish.
However, we always encourage those visiting Merida, Mexico (and beyond) to try to learn the language. This makes for an easier trip and opens the door to a more immersive experience.
Since Merida is the capital of the Yucatan, which is a Mayan region, many people in Merida will also speak Mayan. We noticed nearly all signs were in English, Spanish, and Mayan which was really cool!
Mexico’s currency is the Mexican Peso which has a value of around 16 to 18 times less than the US dollar (i.e. 1 USD = $16 to $18 MXP). Most places in Merida, Mexico will accept debit and credit cards, but most local spots in markets and street stalls will be cash (effectivo) only. Always have pesos on hand before visiting.
Most banks allow you to exchange foreign currencies for free but check their exchange rate before doing this. Sometimes they give you a poor rate and pulling money out of an ATM once you’re in Mexico is a better deal.
The cheapest ATM fees from Mexico banks are:
You don’t need any special adapters if you are traveling from Canada or the United States to Merida, Mexico. They operate on the same voltage system as the rest of North America. If you are in Europe or coming from another continent or country you’ll want to make sure you have an adapter that can run on 127V supply voltage and 60Hz.
Is Merida safe to visit?
One of the top questions people ask when planning a Merida vacation is if it is safe to visit. I’m happy to report that Merida is safe to visit.
In fact, Merida was deemed the second safest city in North America by Business Magazine in 2019 (behind Quebec City). We have an entire blog post about safety in Merida, Mexico you can explore further if you’re still unsure about visiting.
The best time to visit Merida
The best time to visit Merida, Mexico is in winter from November to March. This is the dry season which is usually accompanied by (slightly) cooler days, less rain, and less humidity.
☀️ April to June are the hottest and wettest months in Merida. Visiting at this time can be brutal for sightseeing tours and walking around the city.
🥵 Merida is always hot. We visited in February 2021 and nearly died from the heat – and we’re from Florida! Our last trip to Merida in January 2024 had much better weather due to cloud cover and an incredible breeze with days averaging around 80°F (26°C).
📆 Try to visit Merida over the weekend. Many restaurants close during the week which means your dining options will be limited. There are also a lot of really cool family-friendly and free activities offered throughout the city on the weekends. If you can time your trip to arrive Friday evening and depart Monday morning you’ll have a great amount of time for your Merida, Mexico vacation.
Traveling to Merida, Mexico
Traveling to Merida, Mexico is quite easy. If you’re at one of the major international airports in North America (Toronto, Miami, Houston, New York, among others) you can book a direct flight into Merida’s international airport. From there you can take the public bus, a taxi, or Uber (our recommendation) to get to your final destination in the city.
Cancun to Merida by bus
If you don’t want a layover or if flights are cheaper into Cancun you can take an ADO bus from Cancun to Merida for around $632 – $650 MPX (roughly $36 – $38 USD). You can purchase your tickets online or you can get them at the train station at the airport. We recommend booking beforehand because the tickets can sell out!
Alternatively, you can take the Mayan Train to Merida (Teya Station).
Cancun to Merida on the Mayan Train
The Tren Maya opened in December 2023 and is a massive train system that will connect major cities and archeological zones throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. This is the first of a kind, and if successful will revolutionize travel in this region.
🚨As of Jan 25, 2024, Mexico STOPPED the Cancun to Palenque Mayan Train route (this is how you got to Merida on the train) due to complications on the railing.
🚊 If the route has re-opened, search and book your tickets for the Maya train online here. Click on the button at the top that says “Compra tu boleto aqui“. Then, select the route Cancún Aeropuerto – Palenque. The origin spot should say ” Cancún” and the final destination should be “Merida Teya”.
Prices for the Mayan train from Cancun to Merida were $735 MXP (roughly $43 USD) for the standard seat and $1,173 MXP (roughly $68 USD) for the premier cabin (one-way) when we visited. The trains only depart in the early morning, so this may not work if you arrive in Cancun at a later time.
Both the ADO Bus and the Mayan Train depart from the Cancun Airport directly, so you don’t have to go off-site to get to a station.
Driving from Cancun to Merida in a car
If you plan to be here for a while or you want to take multiple day trips, it may be worthwhile to rent a car. It’s a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Cancun airport to Merida on a safe, nicely paved highway. We share some of the ins and outs of driving in Mexico in this blog post, which is a good read before renting.
🚗 There are three tolls (cuotas) that you will pass through which will cost around $600 – $700 pesos depending on the size of your vehicle. These cuotas are cash (effectivo) only meaning you should be prepared with pesos before driving.
Be warned there are a lot of scams that happen with car rentals in Mexico and booking at a set rate does not mean you are guaranteed that rate at pick-up. Next time we visit (week or longer) we do plan to rent a car though!
Where to stay in Merida
The most popular place for tourists to stay in Merida is the “Centro”. Translating to “the center”, Centro is the historic center of Merida with buildings dating back 450 years! This area is colorful, busy, easy to navigate, close to major sites and tourist attractions, and extremely safe.
With that being said, below are a few of the best places to stay in Merida Centro.
Budget: Budget accommodations in Merida will run you around $40 to $50 USD per night depending on the season. Hostels are in the lower range of this scale but we think it’s worth it to go to a budget hotel. You get more amenities there (like a private bathroom) and there are a lot to choose from. We recommend Del Gobernedor.
Mid-range: Hotel Casa San Angel ($70 – $100 USD per night). This hotel is in a GREAT location just a few minutes from the Paseo de Montejo and 10 or 15 minutes to the heart of “Centro”. We passed by as we were exploring and were swept away by its jungle-themed lobby. Open to the air and covered in an amazing mural it makes you feel like you’re in the heart of the Mexican jungle. The rooms are modest but clean. Learn more about the hotel here!
Luxury: There are incredible luxury hotels around Merida, most of which are in the renovated mansions of the former Hacienda owners of Merida from the 19th century. Rooms at these haciendas begin around $300 a night and go up from there.
My top pick luxury Merida hotel is Mansion Merida Hotel Boutique which has loads of antique charm. If you want a more modern luxury stay in Centro (think Tulum or Todos Santos Mexico vibes) stay at Ya’ax Boutique Hotel.
Getting around Merida
If this is your first time visiting Merida, Mexico you’re likely wondering what your options are for getting around.
We highly recommend walking to most places if you are based in Centro. While it might be a hot walk, there’s nothing like getting to take in your surroundings on foot. Plus, the colors, architecture, noise, and smells of Merida are lost if you’re driving (and parking is limited).
The term “Centro” sounds like it’s a small area, but it’s rather large. It can take 15 to 20 minutes to walk from one area of Centro to the other. I’ve tried to plan the itinerary around the top things to see and do in Merida, Mexico with the least amount of walking.
Pro Tip: The roads in Centro Merida are numbered. Even street numbers run from North to South. The odd number of streets run from east to west. Every block “skips” a number because of this system. Knowing this little trick makes navigating the city WAY easier.
Uber is a popular way of getting around Merida. We love that we can see our fare before ordering it and don’t have to worry about negotiating. If you’re confident with Spanish or aren’t on Uber, you can take a taxi. Just be warned, negotiation is a part of the process, and if you don’t know your way around they can take a “scenic route” to get a higher fare.
You can also take the public bus, called a colectivo. These massive buses commute the majority of the locals around the city for $5 – $30 MXP (well under $1 USD). Look for the name of the destination on the front of the Colectivo to understand where it’s headed.🚶🏼♀️We exclusively walked and took Ubers during our trip.
🚎 Merida just introduced a new bus system called “Va y Ven” which has state-of-the-art buses (way nicer than colectivos) with routes all around the city. You can see the routes here. The best part: you can pay with a credit card!
What to bring on a trip to Merida, Mexico
Here are a few things you should bring on a trip to Merida, Mexico.
- Travel Insurance: We always recommend having travel insurance to cover the “what-ifs”. While visiting Merida, Mexico is extremely safe, it’s nice to know you would be covered if there were any major medical emergencies or trip interruptions. Our go-to travel insurance is Safety Wing. You can get a free quote for coverage by clicking here.
- 💳 Debit card: If you want to withdraw pesos on your trip you’ll need a debit card. We personally just take cash out at ATMs using our Revolut card (we LOVE this).Don’t forget to notify your bank to let them know you’ll be traveling out of the country.
- 👟 Comfortable walking shoes: You will be doing a lot of walking in the city. Make sure you have a good pair of shoes with you that won’t give you blisters (first-hand experience).
- 🧢 Hat, sunscreen, and warm weather-friendly clothing: It is HOT in Merida, Mexico. Make sure you’re packing appropriate clothing. We walked the Paseo de Montejo for about an hour one day and were completely sunburnt. Bring sunscreen, a good sun hat, and lots of shorts, t-shirts, and dresses.
- 💧Reusable water bottle: The water in Merida, Mexico is safe to drink at restaurants but tap water is off-limits. Your Airbnb and hotel will likely have a 5-gallon jug of purified water available for you to drink from. I fill up my reusable water bottle so I always have safe, fresh water with me as I’m exploring.
- 💳 Travel credit card with no international fees: Most places in Merida will take debit or credit cards but most banks will charge an international fee. We always use this travel credit card when abroad because we earn points that we can redeem for future travel and it has no international fees.
- 👙 Bathingsuit and towel. If you plan to do a day trip to the cenotes near Merida (something we highly recommend), you’ll want to have a bathing suit and light packable towel with you. You can see our favorite travel towels here.
How much does it cost to travel to Merida
Mexico is a fairly affordable country compared to its northern friends, the USA and Canada. Street food can cost as little as a few dollars to more formal restaurants being $10 to $20 per plate. We found prices in Merida, Mexico had gone up a lot since our last visit. For example, many shops were selling goods for $1,000 – $3,500 MXP (around $55 to $185 USD).
$150 to $200 USD per day would be a very comfortable amount to cover food, lodging, transportation, activities, and even an alcoholic beverage or two. If you’re on a budget you could get by on $70 to $100 USD per day per person in Merida, including accommodations.
The influx of tourism and expats to the city along with the new Mayan Train have pushed costs up. However, there are still affordable places to both stay and eat. Check the 17 best restaurants in Merida right now.
Things to do in Merida
We’ve created several blog posts to help you make the most of your time visiting Merida, Mexico. If you are there for a short trip check out our 2-day Merida itinerary. This gives you a step-by-step itinerary of coffee, food, sights, shopping, and more. It’s hands down the BEST Merida itinerary out there!
We created a blog post with all of the fun and unique things to do in Merida in one spot for you. Things like visiting the ancient ruins at Dzibilchaltun, seeing Flamingos in Rio Lagarto or Celestun, going swimming in cenotes, and eating the best traditional Cochinita Pibil in the world.
Check out more of the top day trips you can take from Merida in this blog post.
- The Perfect 2 Days in Merida, Mexico (Itinerary with Map): Make the most of your short time in the city with this step-by-step itinerary!
- 17 Best Restaurants in Merida You Can’t Miss: See the best places to eat in Merida for breakfast, lunch, dinner (and botanas).
- 18 Essential Merida, Mexico Things To Do: A complete roundup of the top 18 things to do in Merida (in the city).
- Is Merida, Mexico Safe to Visit? Yes! Here’s Why: A deep dive into Merida’s safety and why visitors shouldn’t be concerned about traveling here.
- 17 Delicious Yucatan Dishes You Have to Try: This post shares 17 of the most delicious traditional Yucatan foods to try on your trip.
- 11 Amazing Merida Day Trips You Don’t Want to Miss – Check out the top 11 Merida day trips to take just a few hour’s drive from the city.